Anything I share anywhere online I do so knowing that any shred of this information could be made public at any time. Every document I save, every tweet I type, and of course every blog entry I write will have an infinite shelf life. When I type anything into a network connected computer it is being released to the wild. It may remain locked up on a hard drive or it could appear on the front page of some trashy website, but when I share it, that choice is no longer mine. I know this, and I’ve known this all of my technological life, ever since the first time I typed “Hi!” to my modem connected cousin in a chat room in 1985 using a Commodore 64, a modem, and GEnie (an ‘information sharing’ service from that era).
According to Reuters, Apple dropped plans for full end-to-end encryption of iPhone (and presumably other iOS-based device) backups after receiving complaints from the FBI. The FBI countered fully encrypting backups would harm any investigations.
Apple touts itself as a “privacy first” company and this news greatly disappoints me. However, I’m not completely taken by surprise by this.
Ever since 9/11, when the United States of America became fear-based, paranoid country of citizens, the government has rapidly eroded citizens’ privacy rights, all in the name of patriotism and safety. In the guise of “going after the bad guys”, government agencies, some out in the open and many behind closed doors, want to know anything and everything about every one of its citizens, whether you’re doing anything nefarious or not. Books have been published about this, television documentaries have shared this, movies have been made, there’s plenty of evidence out there. The U.S. Government feels they have a right to anything and everything you’re doing. Encryption prevents them from gathering this information. The Government is fearful of another attack akin to 9/11, not because of casualties or destruction, but rather because it would compromise the motto of “The Greatest Country in the World”. Another attack like that fateful day in 2001 would embarrass the Government and they’re going to do everything they can to prevent it from happening again.
“But I have nothing to hide!”. I hear this often when engaging others in a conversation along about this subject and my counterpoint is always two part: 1. It should be “But I have nothing to hide, yet!” and 2. Why don’t we just get rid of freedom of speech because perhaps “You have nothing to say”.
Aside from building your own cloud and your own ecosystem and your own encryption and the like, I still maintain Apple’s devices and ecosystems are still the safest option out there for Joe Schmoe and friends type users. This is why my family continues to invest in Apple products. Granted, today’s revelations are disappointing, and if it’s indicative of a trend I may consider building my own data fortress (because I can), but I still believe when it comes to privacy, Apple is still the best consumer choice in town.
And if you don’t want anyone accessing it, don’t put it on a computer to begin with.